The royal commission has shone a light on the isolation experienced by young people in aged care, detailing the harrowing case of a Geelong woman who was in a facility while only in her 20s.

After a brain tumour and two strokes, Kirby Littley's movement was restricted, she was rendered speechless and forced to moved into aged care while undergoing rehabilitation.

In 2014 Ms Littley, then a teacher at the Barwon Valley School, was diagnosed with a brain tumour.

Only 20 minutes after a marathon 12-hour operation to remove it, she suffered her first stroke, and then a second weeks later.

(L-R) Carol Littley, Kirby Littley and Kevin Littley (AAP Image/Julian Smith)
(L-R) Carol Littley, Kirby Littley and Kevin Littley (AAP Image/Julian Smith)

Parents Carol and Kevin Littley gave evidence about the experience of their daughter to the royal commission.

"For about 13 months, when aged in her late 20s, Kirby lived in residential aged care in Geelong," the report said.

"(Her parents) stated that their daughter's friends soon stopped visiting her."

"They also said that she felt 'isolated and lonely' because she was in a different demographic to most of the residents."

The report said Kirby's parents considered her experience demonstrated that aged care was not an appropriate place for her to live.

Kirby said she provided a real perspective of young people living in aged care, and was proud that her experience was included in the report.

The royal commission recommended the federal government immediately put in place means to achieve and monitor and report on progress towards commitments announced by the Prime Minister in 2019.

Those committments included to ensure:

NO person under the age of 65 enters residential aged care from January 1 2022;

NO person under the age of 45 years lives in residential aged care from January 1 2022; and,

NO person under the age of 65 years lives in residential aged care from 1 January 2025.

Mr Littley told the Addy it was "great" his daughter's experience could help inform the royal commission.

Kirby Littley was forced to join 6,000 young Australians living in aged care facilities.
Kirby Littley was forced to join 6,000 young Australians living in aged care facilities.

"I only hope that something's done about it, we've been lobbying for a long time," Mr Littley said.

 

Mr Littley said more purpose-built support was needed for younger people requiring residential care in Geelong.

Now 34, Kirby lives in a specially built unit.

"Her goal is to gain as much independence as possible," he said.

Mum Ms Littley said the public needs to understand anyone could be Kirby.

"All of a sudden she has a brain tumour and her whole life changes," Ms Littley said.

"Society at the moment is not looking after these people adequately.

"They are being denied a future."

 

ROYAL COMMISSION MUST TRIGGER REFORM: FAMILY

Geelong residents haunted by the deaths of their loved ones who lived in aged care

say it is imperative the royal commission triggers meaningful reform.

Manifold Heights resident Jill Braithwaite's mother, Joan Coffen, died aged 96 in 2017.

Mrs Coffen had been living at a Geelong aged care home before she died.

Picture of Joan Coffen. Picture: Supplied
Picture of Joan Coffen. Picture: Supplied

Mrs Braithwaite has alleged staff often failed to turn her mother's hearing aids on, and claims they did not act with appropriate sense of urgency when her health declined.

Still grappling by guilt, Mrs Braithwaite says she sometimes utters the words "sorry mum" when she walks past her ashes.

"I sent mum to the nursing home because of her needs," Mrs Braithwaite said.

"I'm full of guilt because of the horrible, horrible ending in her life.

"I think a lot of people whose loved ones had a pretty awful time would be feeling the same."

She said the royal commission must drive change, and highlighted staff training and levels and correspondence with relatives as issues that needed to be addressed within the sector.

"There needs to be changes," Mrs Braithwaite said.

"The recommendations are all well and good but if they're not going to be acted upon that's been a whole waste of money and concern and effort, if nothing much comes of it.

"Put money into it, and treat human beings who happen to be older as important."

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Originally published as Young woman's horror aged care experience guides commission



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